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Friday, October 9, 2009

10/9/09 It was GRAND!

*Portion of Post Deleted for Lap Band Book

Now, on to my vacation adventures…

I flew out to Phoenix and using the light rail, I met DH at his hotel where he’d been for work. We got the rental car and stopped at Wal-Mart to get the cooler and my water bottles. We stopped to tour Montezuma’s Castle (an ancient cliff dwelling). We drove into Sedona (hotel) and our jaws dropped as we got our first glimpse of the red rocks.

Saturday we watched dawn and then headed up to the Grand Canyon. Like I said; I teared up with my first view. Photos can’t do it justice and it’s way bigger than I imagined…ENORMOUS is too small a word.

I was shocked by how little of the canyon has any rails (not a place I’d take kids…amazed how many people let their kids walk loose). We took the obligatory photos standing on the very edge of the canyon. You don’t really know how thick that rock you’re standing on is…glad I’d lost weight! I watched as a tiny teen Asian girl walked out on the rim rock where I was to get her photo taken…I waited to make sure she made it back as the wind scared me and I must weigh twice as much.

We had our OSU gear on (a game day tradition); I wasn’t at the canyon 5 minutes when I heard someone scream from another path “O-H!”…I laughed and screamed “I-O!” (an OSU chant). This was the start of about 10 comments I got that day from other Buckeyes. It’s a small world! Lesson- wear your favorite team hat/shirt, or one that names your state and you can make friends anywhere…I’m telling you…we get this even outside this country. The OSU saying is that you could scream ‘O-H’ in the middle of a Moroccan market and someone would reply ‘I-O’!

We drove to a few other observation points and then off to our first hotel in the park (Maswik). We walked back up and had lunch on the outside porch of the El Tovar (the huge old hotel) overlooking the canyon. We walked to all the sites on the South Rim center and walked partway down the Bright Angel Trail (yes, it’s the widest, easiest trail down into the canyon there, but one false step and…again, we were was shocked by kids running and one mom pushing a stroller partway down the trail…dangerous). We got on the park’s bus and rode all the way to the Western point and walked a little way down Hermit’s Trail there. We saw general warnings at other trailheads, but this was the only place we saw info. on someone dying there and the mistakes she’d made in preparing (young fit gal who had completed the Boston Marathon before).

We made a short trip up to the Sports Lounge just to see if the OSU game was on and to find out the score…while the bartender checked, a Buckeye came over to tell us it wasn’t on and gave us the score. After sunset we grabbed a seat in the Bright Angel Lounge where a two man band was playing/singing to have dinner/drinks. Again, soon the guitarist/singer commented that OSU Buckeye’s had arrived and that the two of them were from Ohio. They both came over during their break and we had a long fun chat with them.

The next morning we were up before dawn again to grab breakfast (PB incident) and start our day hike. The front desk posted high wind warnings (50-60 mph gusts) and the helicopter and boat tours had been cancelled. I was already nervous about my lack of exercise going on this hike, but I didn’t want to disappoint DH who has walked (with his Geology Field Camp Group) all the way down into the canyon from the North Rim (farthest hike) and back up in a day (something all the trailheads warn you not to even attempt). We went on the South Kaibab trail down into the canyon to ‘Oooh-Ahhh Point'. It was steep with lots of switchbacks and loose sand and pebbles on the trail that made you slide sometimes.

We had gusts of wind that created sand storms so bad we’d all press our bodies against the canyon wall and cover our faces. Still the dirt would be in your eyes and mouth. There were were lots of very steep log/rock steps. My legs were shaking a little and after we made it down I was wondering how many hours it was going to take me to get back up. I had to stop just a few times to catch my breath (my asthma and the thin air in that altitude didn’t help), but get this…I had an easier time on the way up than the way down!!! I was shocked by my ability to keep on marching up!

At lunch the waiter warned us about being careful with the high winds. He told us that this year there was a day very similar where a tiny old Japanese woman was getting her picture taken by her family standing on the edge of the canyon…a gust blew and she fell over the rim (yes, I was thinking about the Asian girl I saw). There was a book in the gift shops about all the deaths at the GC…pages and pages of people and their stories. Here’s a description I found “the book Over the Edge: Death in the Grand Canyon. Describes in grim detail the many ways people have gotten killed there, including falls, cardiac arrest, hypothermia, sun stroke, flash floods, drowning in the Colorado River, lightning, boulder crushings, airplane and helicopter accidents, etc. All too often tourists treat the Grand Canyon as if it is an amusement park in which everything has been idiot-proofed. To the contrary, the only thing preventing a person from walking off the edge is common sense – a slim thread indeed.” I came home and Googled…on average one to three people still die every year accidentally falling off the GC rim (not including the ones who die in the canyon on trails, and from heat stroke, etc.).

Lest I sound overly morbid…I didn't buy the book, but they ought to post better warnings. Over 600+ people have died since the late 1800’s and some 23 people are classified as being murdered in the Grand Canyon (earlier, I laughingly said to DH while I was videotaping him standing on the edge “…and this is DH right before he *ehhemm*… “FELL” off the edge!').

We took the shuttle back out to the west and hiked the rim several miles between overlooks and then all the way back to the lodge we were staying at that night (Kachina- our room had a beautiful view overlooking the canyon). We were walking back from dinner in the dark and there was an elk (first time I’ve seen one) eating the grass about 10 feet from our lodge and right on the rim…DH was hissing at me in a loud whisper as I joined others taking photos (flash, flash, flash) about 10’ from the elk ‘Get away from there!…what was all that you were reading to me on the way here about it being rutting season and the elk being aggressive this time of year?!!’ I couldn’t help myself…I was mesmerized by the giant beast (and darn it…my photos are all black LOL).

We woke early and drove the Eastern road out stopping at all the overlook. It was hard to say goodbye to that beautiful canyon. It’s easy to see why it’s one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World…I can’t wait to see the other six. More on Sedona next…

1- Rim
2- S. Kaibab Switch-backs
3- On the trail
4- Oooh-Aahh Point
5- Up the trail

*In response to Comments:

Thanks gals...yeah, should have taken my puffy coat off for the pics, but it was freezing there...we were even wearing gloves! Kay- 'Loss on vacation' I was laughing as I've finally become (at least for a brief moment) one of those LBers I hate (you know the 'I ate everything at the buffet and lost weight' kind).  Happy weekend all!

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